Marc Raskin (pictured) co-founded IPS with Richard Barnet in 1963.

Marc Raskin (pictured) co-founded IPS with Richard Barnet in 1963.

As a newcomer to IPS, it’s always a bit of a shock to hear the names of progressive heroes spoken around the water cooler with such familiarity.

On May 20, IPS dedicated our new conference room to two of those heroes, Richard Barnet and Marc Raskin, who co-founded IPS in 1963.

“The Barnet-Raskin Conference Room was designed to be a place for us to deepen our relationships with our friends and allies,” Associate Director Tiffany Williams said.

There was a lot of laughter among old friends at the dedication as IPS staff and members of the Barnet and Raskin families recalled moments of the two. Like the story of the first time they met, for instance.

They were both at a State Department meeting during the height of the Cold War and the room was filled with the elites of the military-industrial complex. One especially pompous official stated that if this group couldn’t bring about disarmament, no one could. There was silence. Until two men on opposite sides of the room laughed. A few years later, the story goes, they started IPS where they could more freely laugh at power.

Others recalled memories of the co-founders chasing after a folder of vital institutional documents that got swept up by the wind, and asking strangers in elevators about their tattoos.

Ann Barnet and Jamie Raskin share memories of Dick Barnet and Marc Raskin.

Ann Barnet and Jamie Raskin share memories of Dick Barnet and Marc Raskin.

“In a city that was all about power and ego,” said Sarah Anderson, who was hired by Dick Barnet in 1992, “Dick put niceness above everything else, never put himself above anything, and relished humor. Those are the things that helped us thrive.”

Ann Barnet, Dick Barnet’s wife, remembered countless people telling Dick that his book changed their life, that their life’s work came out of an internship at IPS, or that they found their calling at IPS.

“We need communities like IPS to keep going and make things happen,” Ann said. “It’s so much of an honor for me and my family to be a part of this vision that Dick believed in with all his heart and he’d be overjoyed to see it flourishing here and now.”

Karen Dolan, who was hired by Marc Raskin in 1996, shared a poem she wrote that began:

Ben and Anna in ’34
Gave birth to a baby and opened a door
To music and justice and the intellectual spark
Which would burn so brightly in a public scholar named Marc

IPS Director John Cavanagh toasts to the audacity of the men with "giant ideas that seemed impossible until they made a few of them possible."

IPS Director John Cavanagh toasts to the audacity of the men with “giant ideas that seemed impossible until they made a few of them possible.”

Maryland senator and Marc Raskin’s son, Jamie Raskin, joked that all of the Raskin kids could probably be described as projects of IPS. He said the thing his father taught him about politics was to never give up on anybody, and to talk to everybody.

Cellist David Rabin, who used to perform alongside Dick Barnet, helped honor the co-founders with a Bach piece.

To close, IPS Director John Cavanagh toasted to the audacity of Dick and Marc, and to the “giant ideas that seemed impossible until they made a few of them possible.”

As I toasted the creation of this institute that has been a home for thousands of progressives plotting together on how to make the world a better place, surrounded by IPSers past and present, I felt grateful and inspired to be a part of this continued history in the making.

Domenica Ghanem is the communications assistant at the Institute for Policy Studies.